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Habitat For Humanity Homes Get Free Solar Energy Installation

Volunteer executives install panels on homes being built near the Walnut Creek BART station

Solar Universe executives install panels at Habitat for Humanity home in Walnut Creek/Photo by Mara Ervin
Solar Universe executives install panels at Habitat for Humanity home in Walnut Creek/Photo by Mara Ervin
Some homes being built by Habitat for Humanity East Bay near the Walnut Creek BART station are getting energized for free.

Volunteer executives from Solar Universe installed panels on Thursday and Friday on three of 10 homes being built on Barkley Avenue.

The remaining panels will be installed as the other homes are completed. Residents are expected to start moving in next May.

The solar project is being co-ordinated by Grid Alternatives, a non-profit organization that encourages alternative energy uses.

Mara Ervin of Grid Alternatives said solar energy is needed for lower income Habitat for Humanity residents to help them with their electrical bills. She said the volunteer project is especially helpful since most Habitat residents don't have the money to pay for installation.

"It's really important for lower income families to have access to alternative energy," she said.

Solar Universe uses executives on projects like these to give them first-hand experience on what their crews are doing in the field.

Jason Brown, the company's vice president of sales, said he's sold 3,000 solar units in his career but had never actually touched the product.

"This is a great way to get hands-on experience," he said.

The Habitat project broke ground in spring 2012. There are four buildings in the development. Two of them contain three homes apiece while the two others have two homes each.

The homes range in size from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet and cost between $200,000 and $300,000 each. Owners are required to put "sweat equity" into the homes by helping build them.

When the project is completed, the neighborhood will also have a pathway to the BART station.

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